Top 5 Non-fiction Books With Jason Young

Welcome back another guest Top 5. Returning and joining us this time is Jason Young. Jason is a co-host of the Advance After Combat podcast and facilitates all the Alcoholic Adventure Cabal RPG. Jason is also the designer of Wandering Stars, a rules light space wandering RPG.

Rich and I are big fans of non-fiction, especially historical, and will often pair readings with our featured games on History on the Table. Jason is one of the most voracious readers I know so I figured it would be fun to mix up the Top 5 list and cover something else we both enjoy, books. This list isn’t limited to historical non-fiction and both of our lists are presented in alphabetical order by author.

Jason: I’m in the middle of reading biographies of all of the US Presidents and feel really bad that something like Washington or Lincoln or even Hamilton aren’t here, but they didn’t quite make the cut.

When I first cracked this list I was browsing my Goodreads ratings and kept hitting book after book that would be in top 5 and before long I was at 15+ books for consideration. Surprisingly something like War of the Roses by Dan Jones or This Might Scourge by James McPherson just missed the list and I thought they were absolute locks. I’ll be sure to post a full list in the History on the Table Discord server.

Number 5


Jason:  The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
Dan Jones is a treasure. His books on the medieval world are all fantastic and The War of the Roses is my favorite. The writing is tight and entertaining, informative without being overwhelming. In my Goodreads review I said, “It’s like Game of Thrones without dragons. And it’s real.” I stand by that sentiment.

Matt: The Second World War by Antony Beevor
For my tastes, you could plug just about any Antony Beevor WWII book in but I chose The Second World War for the breadth of material covered. Beevor is an extremely compelling author and is beyond capable of weaving in fascinating stories into his books. Beevor doesn’t get lost in the weeds but provides ample detail. Beevor’s books are easily my favorite on WW2.

Number 4


Jason: Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Devil in the White City is a mash-up of a true crime book about H. H. Holmes and his fabled Murder Castle and a historical delve into the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and everything happening in Chicago at the time. It is a gripping read and has something for everyone.

Matt: Chickenhawk by Robert Mason
One of the best memoirs and books covering Vietnam I’ve read, Chickenhawk is the firsthand account of Robert Mason, a Huey pilot during Vietnam. A fascinating read that I couldn’t quit whether Mason was ripping up tree stumps or flying during Ia Drang.

Number 3


Jason: Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Imagine knowing where everything in the meal you’re about to eat came from. Imagine having a hand in every step of the way. That is what Pollan explores in Omnivore’s Dilemma. Part travel book, part memoir, cookbook adjacent and as a whole an exploration of American consumerism and the business of agriculture.

Matt: The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America by Joe Posnanski
This summer one of the biggest past sins of MLB’s Hall of Fame will be corrected when Buck O’Neil is inducted into the Hall. Buck had a chance to go into the Hall of Fame in 2006 with so many great Negro League players when he was still alive but failed to receive the necessary votes. Posnanski’s biography is in part a case for why Buck deserved to go into the Hall of Fame but is more just a great read about Buck’s career, his stories, the story of the Negro Leagues and baseball. Highly recommended for any fan of baseball.

Number 2


Jason: Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner
This is one of the most upsetting and powerful books I’ve ever read. I learned about it from the Paulo Bacigalupi novel The Water Knife. It deals with water rights, the restructuring of waterways in the US and the Bureau of Land Management and creating cities and farmland where there shouldn’t be. It will make you mad.

Matt: Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor by Clinton Romesha
I found Red Platoon chilling and unsettling at times in the amount of detail poured into the firsthand account of the attack on COP Keating. Riveting is a word that gets tossed around a lot but I have no hesitation using it here. Often times non-fiction isn’t emotional but this certainly elicited more of an emotional response than most non-fiction I read. Can’t recommend it enough.

Number 1


Jason: Phase Line Green by Nicholas Warr
It was hard to pick between Chickenhawk by Robert Mason and Phase Line Green, both of which I have multiple copies of, but Phase Line Green gets the Vietnam nod here slightly. It’s a memoir of a young lieutenant during the second two weeks of the Battle for Hue during the Tet Offensive. Warr’s writing really highlights the confusion of the soldiers on the ground, the terror of house to house fighting and the frustration of dealing with the bureaucracy of war.

Matt: On Desperate Ground: The Marines at The Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle by Hampton Sides
If these were ranked in numerical order, On Desperate Ground would be ranked Number 1. In other words, this is my favorite piece of non-fiction I’ve read. Chosin Reservoir is already fascinating and heroic but Sides’ story telling is brilliant. Gripping, compelling, entertaining, pick your book review buzzword and slap it on this book.

Please feel free to share your Top 5 non-fiction books below.
If you are interested in submitting a Guest Top 5 list, please contact Matt at HistoryTablePodcast@gmail.com and thanks to Jason for dropping by.

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 20-11

We are nearly there! Later this week Rich and I will record this month’s episode and go through my top 10. This is the first place in the list where will we see a group of games ranked so seems like a good time to remind you that I combined GCACW, OCS, Line of Battle and Next War into one entry each and considered my top game in each series for ranking purposes.
Keep an eye out for our next episode that will drop sometime over the weekend.

20. Holland `44

Mark Simonitch has created an excellent series of games using his ZOC-Bond system. The games are pretty welcoming to newcomers and have a nice amount of chrome. Holland `44 doesn’t have the attack limit from Normandy `44 and both sides have a tough puzzle to crack. The German player is on their heels the entire game but still has interesting decisions to make. Great looking game and one of the best in the series, but not the best.

19. Nevsky: Teutons and Rus in Collision 1240-1242

Nevsky is a masterclass in designing operational games. In our most recent episode, we discussed how there was this weird barrier of entry into finally playing Nevsky. If you are like Rich and I, do yourself a favor and download the quick-start scenarios and just start pushing pieces around, you won’t be disappointed. Can’t recommend this game enough and I’m very excited to see where the Levy & Campaign series goes in the future.

18. Silver Bayonet: The First Team in Vietnam, 1965

Silver Bayonet is surprisingly easy to learn and dive into and is one hundred percent worth it. The game is a blast to play with each side’s tactics feeling different from the other, especially in the campaign game. The individual scenario cards are perfect for setting you up for the full campaign as well and play great solo. The map is gorgeous, the components are top notch and Silver Bayonet is one of the best Vietnam games I’ve played.

17. 7th Fleet: Modern Naval Combat in the Far East

7th Fleet is a huge game covering the Pacific that I’ve unfortunately only played once. That one game experience left a lasting impression on me and still ranks as one of my favorite wargame memories. Once things clicked, I knew that the Fleet Series of games could go down as some of my favorite wargames ever made. Tons of different units with lots of levers to pull. I really hope any revamp of this classic series doesn’t change too many things just for the sake of changing things.

16. Concordia

I’ll be the first to admit that the theme of Concordia is pretty soulless but the gameplay isn’t. Concordia is an action-card drafting, hand management game where you expand throughout the Mediterranean region to produce goods Your action cards start out pretty basic but as you acquire new cards you unlock unique actions for future turns. The brilliant aspect of this game is action cards double as victory point cards at the end of the game and can really jell nicely with your overall strategy.

15. Viticulture: Essential Edition

With a great theme and amazing components, Viticulture was one of my first board game loves and still ranks among my and my wife’s favorites. Viticulture is a worker placement game about producing wine, building up a winery and attracting visitors. Efficiency is key and I still can get surprised by a game ending faster than expected.

14. Operational Combat Series

If you are unfamiliar with MMP’s Operational Combat Series (“OCS), OCS is a campaign-level series of wargames where supply management is an integral part of gameplay. Simply put, OCS is one of my favorite wargame series out there. When I first read through the rules, I thought what the hell am I getting into. But once I started to push counters and supply around the maps (all of which are great in this series) the game clicks. The rules surprisingly digestible, probably benefiting from being on version 4.x. OCS can serve as week, month, year long monster game covering a huge campaign or can be play over a few hours on the weekend depending on the scenario. My only knock against the series is the large campaign turns can take a very, very long time to complete and often times the other side is just waiting to do anything. Personal favorites in the series so far are Beyond the Rhine and Korea.

13. Dien Bien Phu: The Final Gamble

First off, whatever say about this game could never really compare to Bruce Geryk’s fantastic video series that concluded with his video titles Dien Bien Phu – The Final Gamble (Legion Wargames) 2014. If you haven’t watched it, check it out. Kim Kanger has truly designed something very unique and innovative with Dien Bien Phu. Supply, combat, encroaching trench lines, even topic are all super interesting and introduce some innovative game designs.

12. Here I Stand

Here I Stand unfortunately has two big hurdles to overcome: 1) you need six players; and 2) you need a full day to play. If you can overcome those two barriers, you are in for one hell of an experience. Here I Stand is a card-driven game with six different factions, most of which feel very unique from each other. It can certainly be a pile on the leader game but that just means you need to politic and choose when to take your shot. I’ve been lucky enough to play a handful of times live over the past couple of years and Here I Stand just gets better and better each time.

11. Le Havre

I absolutely love the tough the decisions in Le Havre. Your actions are actually limited in execution, you either take goods or use a building, that’s it. You do that seven times over a round and then you have to feed workers. But the decisions offered by the piles of goods and available buildings make for extremely tight, difficult and just all around awesome game play. One of the best Uwe Rosenburg games for my money, but not the best…

Games: 10-1 (Coming Soon)

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 30-21

30. Clans of Caledonia

Clans of Caledonia has a lot in common with Terra Mystica and Gaia Project but introduces manufacturing goods and a marketplace with fluctuating prices. The theme is fun one and the variable player factions serve as nice signposts for the direction you may want to develop your clan. Lots of different ways to build out and overall just a fun game to explore.

29. Atlantic Chase

Atlantic Chase is the rare exception where I think learning to play a game through a play-to-learn booklet actually works. The game is innovative, unique and is snappy to play. All of my plays have been solo so far which means that Atlantic Chase may be in a position to climb up this list.

28. Sword of Rome

Well balanced and not overly complicated, Sword of Rome is very tight card driven game where each faction races to conquer early Rome. Where Genesis has very limited negotiating mechanics, Sword of Rome is chock full of negotiations and deal making. Unique faction decks (as opposed to a shared draw pile) make for excellent card play and strong faction identity. Desperate Time cards add a fun wrinkle as well, serving as cards that disrupt play so you can become the active player. Once played, they’re gone. Tons of fun, the game itself may take a while to play but turns don’t feel drawn out and the game will circle back around to you soon enough. Not a game to be taken personally either.

27. The Civil War 1861-1865

There’ve been several times when talking about The U.S. Civil War (TUSCW) I have been asked if I’ve played Victory Game’s The Civil War 1861-1865 (TCW). Clearly, I finally have or rather, I finally am. I am still actively playing my first game of The Civil War but boy the similarities between TCW and TUSCW are abundantly clear right away. I’ll go on record now and predict that TCW will never eclipse TUSCW in my eyes but I will say that TCW is an all-around fantastic strategic Civil War game. Looking forward to seeing where TCW shakes out on the list in the years to come.

26. Thunder in the Ozarks: Battle for Pea Ridge, March 1862

The Blinds Sword System is just a great chit-pull based rules set with great combat resolution and added uncertainty with the command roll. Not only are you unsure what chit will be pulled from the cup, but the effectiveness of the command is also left to the fate of the die roll. Thunder in the Ozarks covers Pea Ridge which is just a fun battle to play out (see Battle Hymn Vol. 1 as well) and features fantastic and very unique art by Rick Barber. There are now 9 published Blind Swords System games. If you have yet to experience this system, I highly recommend you find one on a topic that interests you and give it a try.

25. 1846: The Race for the Midwest

18xx enthusiasts may roll their eyes as this one but the more I play 1846 the more I come to appreciate it. To be clear, there aren’t many stock shenanigans or clever levers to pull in 1846. `46 is very much an operational game where you run good companies. I don’t want that with every 18xx play. Yes, sometimes. most times even, I do want shenanigans, but sometimes I just want to sit down run great routes and focus on route development.

24. Pax Pamir

Tough picking a game you’ve only played once to crack your top 25 games of all time but here we are. My first play was full of threats, backstabbing and politicking and all of that paired with a very fun tableau builder. The mechanics are actually quite simple, you buy cards and place and manipulate those cards in your tableau. But, In addition to all the deal making, where Pax Pamir really shines is the interactions between coalitions, the board state and card play. Fantastic game that left a last impression after just one play.

23. Grand Austria Hotel

I love the aesthetic of Grand Austria Hotel and fortunately the gameplay quality matched. Grand Austria Hotel is an action drafting game where the actions and quality of the action is determined by a pool of dice rolled each round. You fill different café orders and place guests throughout your hotel. It’s really fun and really charming. You may have heard that this game can drag with 3 or 4 players, which is true if everyone is new to the game. Although we primarily play with 2, I’d happily play with 3 or 4 if everyone was familiar with the game.

22. High Frontier 4 All

Every play of High Frontier has left an impression on me. This game is capable of telling the most amazing space exploration stories, some failures, some glorious disasters. Sure, High Frontier is a lot to process but once you sit down to play, you’ll find the rules are in fact decipherable and this game can be played. Actually, the complexity here is not the rules or icons splattered across the stars. The complexity is maximizing efficiency and trying to identify what you should be doing for the best overall outcome.

21. 1849: The Game of Sicilian Railways

Finally, my highest ranked 18xx game. 1849 features brutal terrain and track development that crawls along like a rusting 2 train. Money is tight and you certainly don’t want to be left holding the bag on a dead company. Timing is crucial in 1849, especially for timing stocks. The final 2 shares of each company are these double certificates that I find to be a highlight of the game. Often times there is incentive to hold that double share and positioning yourself to be the lucky buyer can be important. The privates are interesting, the map is brutal (and even features an erupting volcano) and the gameplay is a blast (heh).

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 40-31

40. Caesar: Rome vs Gaul

Caesar is an innovative card driven wargame that builds upon many of the foundations of Mark Simonitch’s earlier design, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. It’s fast playing, elegant and features a game state that seems to require constant reassessment as threats pop up and change very rapidly. A much more interesting dice-based combat resolution replaces the, for my taste, less interesting battle cards found in Hannibal. Hannibal and Caesar are both great games but Caesar is a refinement of its predecessor resulting and one of my favorite card driven games.

39. Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan

I initially bounced off of Sekigahara pretty hard. At first, I found no satisfaction in the combat resolution cards, much like Hannibal. After deciding to revisit the game, I discovered that the card play of Sekigahara is far deeper and much more rewarding than I initially thought. Mechanically simple but extremely clever in design, Sekigahara is an amazing game that has revealed its true potential over the course of continued play.

38. Bayonets& Tomahawks

I guess this is the part of my list where I’m dumping all my card driven games. That wasn’t by design but as I process these past few picks, I realize that they all share the common trait of being elegant, fast-play card driven games. None of games 40 through 38 are overly complex or monster wargames. They each build upon and offer new and interesting takes to the CDG genre and don’t overstay their welcome on the table. Bayonets & Tomahawks contributes its fair share of innovation and development to the genre with my favorite being how the differently shaped combat units interact with each other and lead to interesting combat outcomes. I’ll a admit that Bayonets & Tomahawks is a bit of a surprise hit for me. It snuck in a play in 2021, delivered a fantastic experience and has been occupying brain space ever sense.

37. Advanced Tobruk System

I earlier applauded Last Hundred Yards for standing on its own legs and being its own type of tactical WWII game. ATS on the other hand offers a very similar experience to Advanced Squad Leader. I don’t love everything about ATS but there are some very specific mechanic and rule choices that I do generally prefer to ASL. Most importantly, the rulebook is much more condensed and can almost be read much like you were preparing for any other wargame, almost. ATS also features alternating activations as opposed to entire I-go, you-respond phases in ASL. I could make a list of differences and things I prefer for each game but, in short, for me, ATS is a nice change of pace from ASL but does not dethrone it.

36. Arboretum

I alluded to Arboretum way back with game #79, Red Rising. Arboretum is this surprisingly tense little card game about planting different trees in increasing numerical order to try and score the most points. Scoring isn’t a guarantee though because you have to hold back enough trees in your hand to be eligible to score that type of tree. It’s simple but fascinating and sometimes excruciating trying to determine which cards to play, discard or keep. A brain-burner that I absolutely love.

35. Buffalo Wings

I am not good at playing Buffalo Wings. In my first face to face game my opponent, Mitchell Land, pointed out that after probably 5-7 turns of zooming and whirling around the map, my plane was effectively back to where I started, facing the same direction just at a much lower altitude. The Fighting Wings and Air Powers series covering tactical air combat from J.D. Webster fascinate me. As I dive deeper into these games, which I admit is a process, my fasciation grows. What I really like and appreciate is how the spreadsheet flight logs (tracking expenditures of movement, power, altitude, change in market value, etc.) reinforce the rules you’ve read and are trying to grock. I joke that it’s ‘Spreadsheets the Wargame’ but I’ve found I rather like working through that step-by-step process each turn to better understand these very meaty games.

34. Arkham Horror: The Card Game

I recently discussed Arkham Horror: The Card Game as my top solo game. Whether solo, or multi-player, Arkham checks a lot of different boxes for me. First, I love a good Cthulhu based game. I know a lot of board gamers feel an oversaturation of Cthulhu as a theme but so long as the game play is fresh, keep `em coming. For Arkham, everything about this game captures or leans into the Cthulhu vibes I’m looking for. The scenarios, the settings, the art, and even the mechanics all lend themselves to the Lovecraft aesthetic and make for an outstanding scenario based living card game.

33. The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire

Worker placement, engine building, tableau building, again we’re talking about a game that checks a lot of boxes. Manhattan Project: Energy Empire is an example of using the right mechanics and using them well and in new ways. Worker locations are never completely locked down because you can commit more energy to visit a spot that’s already been claimed. You can manipulate and use different buildings and energy types that align with your particular approach for that game. A great take on the worker placement genre.

32. Terra Mystica

I owned Terra Mystica for years before I finally played it and I only started playing because I played Gaia Project and couldn’t find a copy of it at the time. Terra Mystica is very much a resource management game. As long as you have the resources, you can take which ever action you want. There isn’t always an obvious or clear action to take when you first get started but once you start to build momentum and become more and more efficient the game’s depth begins to reveal itself. Factions are unique and offer different game play experiences. Games themselves can play out very differently based off those factions and different bonus and scoring tiles revealed. I don’t always go for euro games that require a ton of future planning but there is something about sitting down in front of Terra Mystica and realizing that if I do A, then B, that sets up C which will mean I can finally accomplish D.

31. 1830: Railways & Robber Barons

You always remember your first and 1830 was my first 18xx game. It closed in a glorious blaze with someone else dumping an empty shell corporation on an unexpecting new player leading to their bankruptcy. For so long I had placed 18xx games on this hard to reach pedestal but 1830 opened my eyes to the fact that 18xx games are not rules complicated, they are practice and execution complicated. With that first hurdle cleared, subsequent 1830 games then revealed how deep 18xx games, including and especially 1830, can be. The best part about 1830 is it accomplishes that depth of play without flashy gimmicks or tricks. Not saying those are bad things, they can make for very fun 18xx games. A fantastic, truly classic game design.

Top 6 Most Anticipated Wargames of 2022 with Matt and Rich

Below is a spoiler list for Episode 34 of History on the Table where we discussed our most anticipated games of 2022 (1:22:45). Listen in for details and thoughts on the games.

Rich

#6 Into the Woods: The Battle of Shiloh
#5 Warsaw Pact Air Commander (image from @hexsides)


Warsaw Pact Air Commander is Brad Smith’s follow up game to NATO Air Commander published by Hollandspiele.


#4 Sword and Fire: Manila

#3 Arracourt
#2 Pacific War: The Struggle Against Japan, 1941-1945 (Second Edition)
#1 Vietnam: 1965-1975

Matt

#6 Arracourt
#5 A Glorious Chance: The Naval Struggle for Lake Ontario in the War of 1812
#4 Prelude to Revolution: Russia’s Descent into Anarchy 1905 – 1917
#3 All Levy & Campaign Tiles
#2 Tiger Wings: WWII Tactical Air Combat Over East Asia
#1 Winter’s Victory: The Battle of Preussich-Eylau

Winter’s Victory is the anticipated 2022 release from New England Simulations.

Let us know your most anticipated games of 2022 below. Anything fly under our radars?

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 60-51

60. Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge

Battle Hymn Vol. 1 is a chit-pull wargame that recently showed up on the Top 5 games to play solo list. Although combat calculations are rather clunky, the game overall is tons of dice chucking fun. The uncertainty of the chit-pull mechanic adds a lot to this game, especially because even combat resolution occurs on the pull of a chit. The campaign games far outshine the smaller scenarios so definitely check those out.

59. 18Los Angeles

18Los Angeles is a direct offshoot of 1846: the Race for the Midwest and plays like a condensed and cramped version of it. Much like 18MS, 18Los Angeles isn’t very deep or overly complex, it’s just fun, rather straight forward, 18xx on small congested map with some cool concepts (like trains sharing routes). I like how tight the map is and how quickly the game plays out.

58. Glass Road

An Uwe Rosenberg design that I adore but doesn’t hit the table nearly enough. Glass Road is an action selection game where you pick 5 cards to play for a round. If no one else has that card in hand when you play a card, you get all the actions on it. Otherwise, just one. Like many Uwe designs, I love seeing the finished product in Glass Road as you clear forests and build buildings. It’s not as grand as some other Uwe designs but the gameplay is solid. The asset wheels are worth mentioning and are a neat way to keep track of resources in the game. Talking about this makes me want to get it to the table ASAP.

57. Hero Realms

Hero Realms is a light deck building game but it is one of my favorites when played with the unique character classes. The character classes add specialized strategies to the game and without them the game feels rather vanilla. If I’m looking for a very quick playing, easy to setup deck builder, Hero Realms is my choice (again with the class packs, they are an absolute must). The game has been supported past its initial release, but I think the failure to release more character packs has been a big misstep and I would love to see more.

56. Sherco’s Grand Slam Baseball Game

Sherco’s Grand Slam Baseball is the best sports simulation game I’ve played. Sherco, like other sports sims of its nature, boils down to chucking dice and seeing what happens. But what sets Sherco above things like Hockey Blast or Strat-O-Matic is not only the vast amount of outcomes that can play out but the amount of actual decisions you can make though the course of a game. Whereas with Hockey Blast (a game I love to play solo) you are along for the ride, in Sherco you have what feels like actual player agency. Maybe those decisions don’t actually matter in play but they certainly enhance the experience. Some great fan work (props to the fantastic custom cards by ‘Duck’) has gone into this game and I’ve been working on my own wooden based 1985 Royals play set including a mounted Royals Stadium (now Kauffman Stadium).

55. Root

Asymmetric woodland warfare! Root is another game that improves with continuous play. I started out thinking some factions would be duds based on their particular mechanics but I’ve since been able to get a better grasp on each faction. Once I had an understanding of each leaned into their gameplay styles I found that they are all a blast to play with unique paths to victory. Root requires keeping an eye on each player and determining how to respond to an evolving game state while also playing to your faction’s strengths. You can’t just burry your head and do your own thing but you need to interact with other players. Root allows for that in different ways whether through politicking, warfare or leaching off other in a sort of symbiotic relationship.

54. Rook

Rook is one of my favorite trick taking game with some of my favorite trick taking rules. Whoever makes the highest bid gets to take the 5 card nest (5 face down cards) and can swap 5 of their cards from their hand. Whoever wins the last trick claims the nest (you can hide pointers in there or set yourself up to be 2 suited). 5’s, 10’s, 14’s, the Rook card (super trump), and most cards taken score points at the end of each round. It’s a blast to play, I just think that the nest taker has a huge advantage. The reason Rook falls this low is because of that dominant position that the high bidder can put themselves in. But for an apparently 115+ year old card game, it’s doing well for itself. Ranking Root and Rook next to each other was completely coincidental!

53. SPQR

SPQR has always lived in this weird space for me. When I’m playing the game, I love it. When prepping game or looking back on a game, I sour on it for some reason. I think in large part it has to do with the type of combat SPQR is presenting because although the game rules are a bit dense and gameplay itself is a bit fiddly (solved by playing on Vassal, somewhat), the game design is outstanding. If detailed, tactical Ancients warfare is something you are looking for and you want more on your plate than something like Commands & Colors: Ancients offers, SPQR is a lot of that crammed into one big box.

One of my current favorite Commanders to pilot

52. Magic: The Gathering

Even just a year ago there is no way that Magic cracked my top games list but Commander, or Elder Dragon Highlander has completely changed my perspective on the game. If you are unfamiliar with EDH, Commander is 100 singleton card format best at 4 players. I find building a 100 card Commander deck to be tons of fun and Commander just leads to insane combinations, gut busting laughter and sometimes really interesting politicking.

51. Normandy `44

Normandy `44 has been surpassed by more recent Mark Simonitch designs but those don’t discredit this fantastic game. For those unfamiliar with Simontich’s ZOC-Bond style of games they are, at their base, rather straight forward, you go, I go hex and counter wargames. But piled on top of that base is the ZOC-Bond mechanic and tons of great chrome for each game design. Normandy `44 does slip a bit because of how combat will more likely than not end up on the same CRT column repeatedly due to combat maximums but I still love this game. One of my first hex-and-counter wargames and one I still completely recommend for those looking to play out the Normandy invasion.

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 70-61

70. Champions of Midgard

Dice based combat resolution and worker placement may not seem like a nice pairing but that’s what you get here and it is tons of fun. Champions of Midgard is like many worker placement games where you collect various goods to build neat things and feed people. Here the people are Viking warriors and the cool things are warships and supplies to protect the village from monsters. Glory (victory points) are earned by venturing out and killing monsters. Still ranks as one of my wife’s favorite games.

69. Food Chain Magnate

My first and only Splotter Spellen game (to date). Food Chain Magnate is a very smart and ruthless design where you can easily get left behind. It’s a great balance of developing your own board state while needing to keep an eye on what your opponents are up to. Unique theme and a great look. A recent play reminded me how strong of strategy game this even though I was playing terribly.

68. 18MS: The Railroads Come to Mississippi

18MS is my change of pace 18xx title. It won’t be my only 18xx entry either. It’s very straight forward and doesn’t have the same depth of play as other, more robust 18xx games but it’s still very fun to play. A fixed number of rounds makes for fast playing games and the privates offer fun one-time abilities.

67. The Castles of Burgundy

Mechanically straight forward but deep enough for continued rewarding and strategic play. The Castles of Burgundy is a great dice/action selection game and a go to couples’ game for my wife and me. Like Kingsburg, I prefer to play with the variable player boards to add some spice to each play.

66. Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles

If you want to read more, check out this Top 5 list with Judd Vance. In short Samurai Battles has some very fun power cards and a very interesting meta currency that sets it a few notches above other Commands & Colors titles.

65. Innovation

I didn’t play Innovation until 2021 but once the pop was topped there was no going back. Innovation is sometimes chaotic but always fun race to the end. Multi-use cards, take that capabilities and limited actions come together in great way here. The group I play this most with has developed a great meta that only adds to my appreciation of the game. Oars!

64. Operation Pegasus

Judd is getting named dropped twice in the same chunk of my top 100 games. Here it is for spreading the good word about Operation Pegasus. This a 42 year old war game covering the Siege of Khe Sanh that holds up surprisingly well (unless you can only play your wargames solo). Hidden counters, helicopter management and logistics and very fun gameplay. Combat is a little murky but certainly worth working through.

New Axis Empires edition

63. Axis Empires

Axis Empires: Totaler Krieg! & Axis Empires: Dai Senso!, either separate or as a combined game, are great WWII sandbox games that really give a lot of agency to each faction. The political tables and the outcomes from various political event rolls are the highlight of these games and can make for some very interesting and unexpected game states. Combat is fun but pretty shallow but at the army scale it works. Definitely worth looking into if you want WWII: What If in a box.

New Axis Empires edition

62. 1832: The South

Until I get a chance to play 1817 in person (spoiler, 1817 doesn’t crack this list, yet), I think 1832 is around the top of my 18xx complexity interest. There are plenty of levers to pull in 1832 for my taste. It was my first experience with price protection and the creation of Systems and the clever game play that develops from their use. Doesn’t have the harshness of 1817 but certainly a robust 18xx design.

61. Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Crusades

Game play experiences and the memories we develop while playing play a huge role in shaping our perception of games. My first play of Onward, Christian Soldiers was enlightening and incredibly memorable, in the best of ways, and now O,CS lives rent free in my head. The game certainly has its flaws and could use some additional development that will probably never happen but I am convinced that the workings of a wargame masterpiece are here. If you could assemble a group of 7 experienced players and hash out a couple, but not many, rule ambiguities you could have an unforgettable wargaming experience. Factions have to act out of their own interests but also must work together towards their side’s common goal. Brutal attrition, deadly combat and no reinforcements for the Crusaders really make for a tough nut to crack.

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 80-71

80. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

This is probably sacrilege but when push comes to shove, I just enjoy the smaller 2 player version of Agricola more. Some key Agricola elements (e.g. professions, feeding family) are missing in this smaller version but Agricola:ACBS is great fun and still captures the Agricola feel. An important caveat here is the expansions are a must but that’s easy to accomplish with the recently printed big box version of the game.

79. Red Rising

Red Rising uses a favorite card game mechanic of mine which is deciding to keep a card in your hand for scoring/end-game purposes or playing it for some immediate benefit. The decisions generated by multi-use cards are excruciating and produce some excellent internal tension and that’s definitely present in Red Rising. The theme doesn’t come oozing off of the game but Red Rising at least pushed me to check out the books which I highly recommend. Doesn’t overstay its welcome on the table and has fantastic art.

78. Battles of the American Revolution Tri-pack: Guilford, Saratoga, Brandywine

There is some great value to be found in this collection and I seem to always find it hovering near the top of my “I need to play that again” pile. The Battles of the American Revolution as a whole is a sharp, elegant system that plays without getting bogged down. Randomized turn order adds a nice surprise element to the game and troop morale can play a role as well. American Rev isn’t a topic I gravitate towards but I think this is a great system, and more specifically entry in the system, for anyone looks for some American Revolution action.

77. Kingsburg

I’ll add the important caveat that Kingsburg only cracks this list with its fantastic expansion Kingsburg: To Forge A Realm. With the expansion, Kingsburg is an excellent dice placement game where you have to prepare for a looming threat while developing your realm for victory points. To Forge A Realm adds variety to each player board and future plays. A second edition exists that I haven’t played.

Photo from Ted Alspach, BGG

76. Crokinole

I’ve had success with Crokinole in just about every situation I’ve introduced it. This is a simple flicking game with targeting rules that shift depending on the current board state. Absolute blast and I’m very happy with the recent Mayday Games board I acquired for my own collection.

75. Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King

Isle of Skye is a great blend of auction and tile placement mechanics. The ‘trick’ here is you price the tiles for sale or to keep. You want to price the tiles your opponents want high enough to take their money, but not so high they buy elsewhere. You also want to protect the tiles you want by pricing them just so someone won’t take them from out in front of you.

74. Star Wars: Destiny

Oh man, when Star Wars: Destiny came out I was all in. I was cracking packs and going to draft tournaments every chance I could. Prices and publishing delays/schedules killed a lot of the momentum but mechanically I loved this game. Destiny was a collectible card game with dice and tons of Star War theme jammed in. Eventually Fantasy Flight pulled the plug on this game but I still remember it with fondness. When stores were unloading their stocks I bought a bunch up to build a couple of balanced decks to keep around.

73.Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles

Band of Brothers was my entry to tactical WWII gaming. If you have no interest in the rules or complexity of ASL and ATS, this scratches the exact same itch with a much, much smaller rule book. Fantastic components and just as capable of telling the great stories that tactical games often tell. The only reason Band of Brothers hovers this far back in the list is because I eventually moved on to ASL and ATS and needed to make space.

72. Genesis: Empires and Kingdoms of the Ancient Middle East

The thing I like most about Genesis is that it allows me to focus on my kingdom’s immediate concerns and objectives. If playing as the Babylonians, there is little I can do to react to events unfolding in Troy or Memphis. My immediate concerns are the areas and threats facing Babylon as my chits are drawn. The result is the game allows me to focus on my kingdom’s expansion in a way that I enjoy. On top of that, Genesis has very interesting percentage-based combat resolution where the victor needs to weigh taking vs. inflicting casualties. Richard Berg admitted this game was unbalanced (it’s really easy to make a Mitanni sandwich) but if you understand that going into the game Genesis makes for a great play.

71. Fresco

Solid worker placement with a fun twist and a unique (especially for the time of its release) theme, painting. Here, players commit their workers in secret and depending on how early their painters wake up will either get their preferred spot or the unwanted leftovers. We don’t sprinkle in the expansions beyond those included in the base box but we are still enjoying this game several years after its release. I guess you could say it still feels Freshco.

Top 5 Solo Games with Jason Young

Welcome back to another guest Top 5. Excited to have fellow podcaster, tiki aficionado and Child of the Fence, Jason Young!

Jason: I’m one half (or one third depending on how you slice it) of the Advance After Combat podcast at https://advanceaftercombat.podbean.com and facilitate all the Alcoholic Adventure Cabal (see what we did there?) RPG actual plays at https://aac.podbean.com.

I recently offered a menu of Top 5 offerings to Jason and he delivered lists for several. After realizing he and I take solo gaming in different directions I thought it would be a great list to start with.

Jason: When people ask me about solo games, I tend to just think of solo only (or primarily solo) games, rather than games that can be played solo (which to me is basically everything). I also like relatively small games that are easy to play.

When playing solo, I look for a balance between interesting decisions and ease of setup. Which means I can forgive a game that you are only ‘playing’ to check results if it’s fast playing and easy to setup. It also means that Beyond the Rhine didn’t make the cut. Sure I could solo the whole shebang but I’ve got things to do. This left me considering both games designed for solo play (admittedly I don’t play many of those) and games where I play both sides.

Number 5


Jason:  A Week in Hell (Battles Magazine)
A Week in Hell is a tiny game, with great components (for a magazine game) about the beginning of the Battle of Hue. You’re clearing out the southern part of the city using your meager supply of Marines, trying to keep infiltrators at bay and hopefully keeping all the bridges intact for future operations. It’s quick, tense and rewarding and is my go-to Vietnam solo game

Matt: Hockey Blast (Plaay)
Hockey Blast is a sports simulation game that is very fast to play, and even faster to setup. Set your lines and start rolling dice and consulting charts. The game unfolds by checking for certain symbols and key words that are all easy to identify to keep a nice game flow. This makes this list over something like Sherco’s Grand Slam Baseball because I would only ever play this solo. Fun to watch games unfold but not many meaningful decisions to be made.

Number 4


Jason: Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid. (GMT Games)
One of my favorite things in games is having different ways to play it, and both Enemy Coast Ahead games do that excellently. The Doolittle Raid has you commanding flights of B-52s on bombing runs again Japan near the end of World War II. The latter scenarios increase the complexity by including flight turns, then naval turns and finally the full boat of planning the mission through to the debriefing. It’s a lot of dice rolling, but in a way that to me is more engaging that the “B-17: Queen of the Skies” kind of way and the debriefing after each mission sums up your efforts wonderfully, leaving you celebrated or chastened.

Matt: Pavlov’s House (Dan Verssen Games)
Pavlov’s House shares some similarities with the tried-and-true States of Siege system (a pending doom advancing along several fixed tracks) but shines in its wealth of decisions offered to the player. In Pavlov’s House you not only make tactical decisions inside the apartment stronghold but also try and maintain operational command and support. Each section of the game will require tough decisions but you will find that you lack the resources available to do everything you would like or need to do.

Number 3


Jason: RAF: The Battle of Britain (Decision Games)
More air war in WWII! And first things first, this game looks fantastic on the table. The game has you commanding the British RAF fending off German air raiders in the traditional Lion scenario, you can turn the tables and play as the Germans in the Eagle scenario or you can play head-to-head in the two-player game, each with its own rulebook. The game provides you some intel on what is coming, but it is incomplete which gives a great tension as you spread your resources around the home island trying to protect assets and keep the raiders at bay. You get attached to your pilots despite some fiddliness and some rules overhead but the game tends to reward good play and hooks you in.

Matt: Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games)
For my tastes, it’s hard to top the chit pull mechanic for solo wargaming. The randomness and bit of chaos helps me play both sides without being able to plan too far into the future. Battle Hymn may have some unintuitive combat but as a whole I still dig the game. Not only are troop command decisions determined by the fate of the chit cup but so is combat which is great for solo (and opposed) play. You might be setting up a great set piece but things can easily go awry if either combat chit comes out too early or too late.

Number 2


Jason: D-Day at Omaha Beach (Decision Games)
The (John H. Butterfield designed) D-Day at… games are fantastic. Through the innovative fields of fire on the map and a purely card driven system there is a lot to like here. Omaha gets my nod, barely, as the top since it was first, but Tarawa and Peleliu are fantastic as well. They are hard to win and grueling when your troops are getting mowed down but so rewarding when you finally start gaining ground and eventually win. Pro tip: snag the flipbooks from the BGG files page and you’re off to the races.

Matt: Thunder in the Ozarks: Battle for Pea Ridge, March 1862 (Revolution Games)
Chit pull. American Civil War. TitO checks the right boxes for my type of solo play. The reason Thunder in the Ozarks slides in front of Battle Hymn is I find combat as a process more enjoyable to walk through here. I will say that both are great games and worth checking out even if you can only play solo. The added trick in TitO is the command roll. When a division comes up for activation, before you select a brigade to act, you make a roll and may find that you are stuck with limited activation or can issue a brigade a full command. I and most people I talk to recommend the Blind Swords System.

Number 1


Jason: Ambush! (Victory Games)
Ambush! is a game that couldn’t be made today. The obvious time and testing that went into the game is only realistic in a full-time employee environment. The game is so innovative with its paragraph system that models and rewards realistic tactics. It’s tense and personal and each hex holds so much danger as you creep toward your objective. With a roster of troops, fitting them out with gear, excellent campaign play and a ton of scenarios Ambush! is a treasure.

Matt: Arkham Horror: The Card Game (Fantasy Flight Games)
Arkham Horror is getting better with time and continued play. When I first played ‘Night of the Zealot’ out of the core box I thought the game was fun enough but Arkham didn’t show its true colors until the Dunwich Legacy expansion came out. Not only is the Dunwich campaign way more interesting but the added cards greatly expand the deck building element of the game. This true of the subsequent expansions which continue to deliver more of a good thing. This is getting a bit of a boost by a recent resurgence in play, both solo and via webcam, but I am so glad to be getting this game back to the table. With creative and tight card play and massive looming threats, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is solid.

If you are interested in submitting a Guest Top 5 list, please contact Matt at HistoryTablePodcast@gmail.com and thanks to Jason for dropping his Top 5 solo games.

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 91-81

This February on History on the Table, Rich and I will discuss my Top 10 games of all time. As that episode draws nearer, I wanted to count down to my Top 10 with all the other games I love to play. Over the next few weeks between now and Episode 35 of History on the Table, I’ll be sharing my top 91 games of all time. This list is not exclusive to war games or historical board games, just as it wasn’t when I first started the podcast and revealed my Top 10 games. So, follow along as I count down and feel free to share your thoughts and favorite games down below. I’ll update each page with the next series as they are posted.

I want to talk a little bit about my process and answer some questions before we start the count down. First off, I started with just about every single game I’ve played and made cuts of some obvious games (looking at you Phase 10!) and then did an initial ranking of about 400 games using Pub Meeple’s Ranking Engine. From there I cut the list down to 153 games and did another run through of the Ranking Engine. Finally, I examined the list, made adjustments where necessary, and settled on my top 91 games of all time.

Why 91 games? 91 was the point where I looked at the list and thought there was enough difference in terms of how much I enjoy game #91 and game #92 that it made for a better cut off point than 100. In other words, games #92-100 probably fall outside of my ‘top games’.

Missing games? Some games I am certain that would crack the list and perform quite well were excluded because I just can’t make a call on them yet. I simply haven’t played them enough. These include Dune, Operation Mercury, Baptism By Fire and Gloomhaven.

Why am I ranking series as whole? I combined GCACW, OCS, Line of Battle and Next War into one entry each and considered my top game in each series for ranking purposes. I did this because I didn’t want a run of 4 GCACW games all in a row. If games share a common set of ‘system rules’, they got grouped together. It’s the same story for expansions (e.g., Dominion titles) and tactical games with various modules like Advanced Squad Leader, Advanced Tobruk System, and Company of Heroes.

Something doesn’t match up with the Every Wargame Ever List? Rich and I declare that the EWE List is highly objective with tongue in cheek but compared to my own Top X lists, it is more objective. Also, Rich isn’t weighing in on the discussion here so there may be some inconsistencies.


91. 7 Wonders Duel

7 Wonders Duel is an addictive, fast playing 2 player card game where players develop their civilizations by drafting different types of cards into their tableau. Each play feels deep and different strategies all feel viable to achieving victory. Fun choices to explore and a household favorite for both my wife and me.

90. Coup

It has been a while since I needed to bring a filler game to a meetup but Coup is probably my favorite in the category. It is also one of my favorite social deduction games. Easy to each and also fast playing I especially appreciate how different play groups develop their own Coup metas. The game itself is incredibly simple. Players can take any character action in the game but risk being challenged and losing influence if they are caught lying.

89. Inis

Inis is a gorgeous area control/card drafting game that offers very tight card play from a limited card pool. You will know (mostly) which cards are out there but you won’t know when they will be played. Timing and understanding the cards is important.

You’ll also have to weigh whether you want to sacrifice a precious card or pull one of your clans from the board as you fight across the map.

88. Commands and Colors: Napoleon

In short this is one of the deeper C&C games with combat strength actually tied to remaining blocks. For more comments check out this Top 5 with Judd Vance.

87. Honshu

Honshu is an interesting little card-based tile laying game that also uses some light trick taking elements. In Honshu the winner of each ‘trick’/round gets to pick from the cards played to become a tile in their expanding map. That means you may or may not end up with the tile you would like. It’s quick, easy to each and has some fun end game scoring.

86. Azul

Another quick and easy game and another great looking title. Azul is tile drafting game with a surprising amount of depth to it. You’re not only selecting for your own board but need to be mindful of what tiles get left behind. If you (or even better, your opponent) can’t use a tile you or they will lose points. If you trigger the end of the game, you want to make sure you are the one popping off for the biggest point combinations.

85. Tournay

Tournay is a bit of a hidden gem in my opinion. I can see how it is easy to brush aside for more exciting looking games for sure. But inside the box is an exceptional game that shouldn’t be missed. You draft different building and character cards into your 3×3 grid that either provide ongoing benefits or can be activated by placing workers. It has a super interesting mechanic where you can pay your opponent to use their workers if you run out. Fantastic at 2 players.

84. Alhambra

Alhambra is a euro game classic and it’s always a delight to play. There isn’t a really wow factor to tell you about or anything overtly noteworthy, it’s just a solid playing tile placement/set collection game that looks really nice on the table. The rules can basically be boiled down to either collecting money or purchasing/placing buildings into your Alhambra. There are placement considerations and set collection scoring to keep in mind but that’s about it. Simple but effective game design.

83. Dune: Imperium

Dune: Imperium is a great design that uses two of my favorite board game mechanics, worker placement and deck building, and throws a great theme on top. I’m a little surprised to find it this far down the list but maybe it’s a rising star.

82. Agricola

Agricola used to be quite a bit higher in my past top lists. Nothing has changed in terms of quality of the game, it is still fantastic, tight and sometimes punishing. It gets knocked down because there are several Uwe Rosenberg games that I prefer to play. I’ve found that I enjoy the more sandboxy worker placement games and Agricola feels restrictive, especially compared to some future Rosenberg titles. It’s not that I mind the brutality of feeding your family in Agricola but I like feeling as if I have different options to choose from, even to meet tough demands.

81. Caverna

Caverna also used to be much higher up in past lists but doesn’t find itself here because it feels restrictive like Agricola. No, Caverna offers plenty of different options and is quite a bit more flexible than Agricola. That being said, it just didn’t resonate quite as much with me as other Uwe games have.
This seems as good of place as any to go ahead and point out that although we are at the ‘bottom’ of my Top 91 games, these games are still in the top 20% of all games I’ve ever played. So don’t worry, Agricola and Caverna are still great games that I love to play.

Only one war game so far but I suspect that we may see one or two more in the coming posts. Check back next week our next list. This page will be updated with a direct link when posted.

Again, feel free to share your thoughts down below.

Games: 80-71